Police Chiefs Fear Budget Cuts May Lead to Crime Increase

Police chiefs from around the country are expressing fears that crime rates will increase as law enforcement resources are cut during the economic downturn. In Sacramento, California, homicides are up 43% and assaults on police officers are up 13%, while the department was forced to eliminate its vice unit. In Phoenix, Arizona, a lack of funds is causing police vacancies to go unfilled. Similar concerns were expressed by police chiefs in Maryland and Virginia. Chuck Wexler, Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said, “For the longest time, people thought that the police didn’t matter, didn’t affect the crime rate. Now we’ve seen that’s not true.” The Research Forum said that law enforcement agencies experienced an average cut of 7% this year. In the past, improved policing led to dramatic drops in homicides in such places as New York City and Washington, D.C. Now those gains are in jeopardy. Budget reductions in Sacramento forced the city to cut important government programs and services, such as mental health services and job training programs for inmates being released from prison. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are also in decline.

(T. Jackman, “Police fear crime increase as recession saps forces,” Washington Post, September 29, 2010). Meanwhile, many of these same states are spending tens of millions of dollars on the death penalty. A report released by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice found that the state was spending $137 million a year on the death penalty. More recently, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger borrowed $64 million from state funds to begin construction of a new death row. The new facility is expected to cost taxpayers nearly $500 million. Read DPIC’s recent report Smart on Crime, containing the results of a national poll of police chiefs on the death penalty. The chiefs said the death penalty was ineffective and inefficient in reducing crime, and they put it last in a list of priorities for fighting crime. See Costs and Deterrence. On Oct. 13, DPIC is sponsoring a public forum at the National Press Club in Washington with police chiefs from the U.S. and Europe to discuss whether the death penalty is needed to fight crime. See Media Advisory.